TORRINGTON >> Rarely does one player take over a game, but in this case, Maloney’s AJ Hendrickson not only pitched a complete game, but he also hit a three-run home run in the top of the seventh, scoring what would be the game-winning run in the Spartans 5-2 win over Torrington in the Class L State Tournament.
“That’s him all the way,” Maloney head coach Howard Hewitt said. “Pitching is his second position and he bats cleanup for us.”
Hendrickson came up with runners on first and second with the Spartans leading 2-1.
“I just needed to put the bat on it, try and get some insurance,” said Hendrickson, who didn’t know his home run had left the park. “I thought it was, but it hit something and bounced back.”
Coming up clutch is nothing new to Hendrickson, who had a two RBI base hit, in the bottom of the seventh, to tie the game against Rockville in the Spartans first round game on Monday. Christian Kiss would get the game-winning RBI hit to win the game for the Spartans.
The score was tied at 1-1 after the first two innings and stayed that way until the sixth when Cameron Fahey knocked in Michael Gulino to give the Spartans a 2-1 lead.
The Red Raiders had a chance to tie the game in the bottom of the inning after Shane Bierfeldt lead off with a walk, was bunted over to second, then with two outs Manny Rijo ripped a base hit up the middle. Torrington head coach Pat Richardson waved Bierfeldt around third, but he was met at the plate by a laser throw from Spartans centerfielder Jonathan Walter to get him out.
“There were two outs and we had a chance, he had to make a perfect throw and he did,” Richardson said. “We’ve done that all year. You live and die by the sword.”
Walter’s throw not only kept Torrington off the board but Hendrickson believes it changed the game.
“If he didn’t get him out, it’s a whole different game,” he said.
In the bottom of the seventh Kobe Covington hit a pinch-hit solo home run to left field, to pull the Red Raiders within three, 5-2, with the top of the lineup coming up, but Hendrickson got Stanly Rijo to groundout and John McCarthy to line out.
Dom Sabia then reached on an error, but it meant nothing as Hendrickson got Ben Bonvicini to pop out to left field to end it.
Torrington got the scoring started early, when Stanly Rijo lead off the bottom of the first with double, he was bunted over by McCarthy and then driven in by Sabia but that was the only run the Red Raiders would get until the seventh.
“I don’t think I had my best stuff, but it was good enough to get through,” Hendrickson said.
The Spartans tied the game up in the bottom of the second on a sacrifice fly by Walter that scored Fahey.
That was it for batting as Hendrickson was locked in a pitcher’s duel with Torrington’s junior Josh Rubino, who came in the game in the third to relieve Nate Manchester who left with a back injury.
Rubino kept the Red Raiders in the game, retiring nine of the first 10 batters he faced, allowing just one hit.
“He did a great job today,” Richardson said.
In the sixth inning and pitching through the Spartans lineup for the second time they finally got to Rubino, getting one to take the lead and then Hendrickson hit the home run to extend the lead.
Maloney moves on to play No. 14 Masuk in the Class L quarterfinals on Friday.
Torrington’s season ends, after a 0-3 start, the Red Raiders rallied to finish the season winning 17 of its next 21 games, including the NVL Tournament. They also won the Copper Division of the NVL.
“I’m going to miss our seniors, they were great guys,” a choked up Richardson said. “They embodied what Torrington baseball is all about; they were good role models for the kids after them.”
Maloney 5, Torrington 2
Maloney 010 001 3 — 5 8 0
Torrington 100 000 1 — 2 8 1
AJ Hendrickson and Michael Gulino; Nate Manchester, Josh Rubino (3) and Ben Thompson.
WP: AJ Hendrickson (). LP: Josh Rubino (). 2B: (TO) Stanly Rijo. HR: AJ Hendrickson (MA); Kobe Covington (TO); RBI: Hendrickson (3), Fahey (MA); Covington, Dom Sabia (TO);
Records: Maloney 14-6 Torrington 15-6